It wasn't necessarily about being better, Yoshiyuki Kamei said about his jump to regular playing time this season with Yomiuri.
"The difference was confidence," the Giants' newest leadoff hitter told The Daily Yomiuri on Sunday. "I didn't think I belonged before, so I had to change the way I looked at things."
It seemed unlikely the unproven youngster would get a chance to start on a team overflowing with big-name left-handed hitters, but by sticking with what he knew he could do, Kamei has proved he belongs.
"I got really frustrated last season [in the minors] but in the autumn camp I started to turn my thinking around."
As a 22-year-old fresh out of Chuo University, Kamei lit up the Eastern League in 2005, hitting .320 with some power. The fourth-round draft choice stepped it up a notch in 2006, with 30 hits in 18 games. But his game crashed and burned when he moved up to the Central League--where he had fewer hits (29) in 141 at-bats over 65 games.
He was physically ready but not mentally up to the task and struggled all through the 2007 season in a funk.
"I'm not saying the pitching isn't better up here, because it is, but the gap isn't impossibly large," he said.
"Last autumn, I realized I could do it, and I worked at it. In the spring and the preseason I got results and here I am."
Kamei played in 30 of the Giants' first 31 games and has started 23 of the club's last 25 games.
Although he has yet to draw the walks he did in the minors, Kamei has been hitting the ball hard.
On Sunday, his two-run, second-inning triple put the Giants on the path toward a comprehensive 7-2 win.
The night before, Kamei won a 14-pitch endurance contest to break up Kyohei Muranaka's no-hit bid with a double at Jingu Stadium and spark the Giants to a stunning 5-0 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
"I wasn't thinking about anything," said Kamei of what he called the best at-bat of his career.
"He had been throwing so many unhittable pitches all game, but he was all over the place at that point.
"I was just locked in, determined not to give up."